Skip to comments.Village invited to test cheap, clean nuclear power (Galena, Alaska))
Posted on 10/21/2003 3:28:48 PM PDT by Liberal ClassicEdited on 07/07/2004 4:49:06 PM PDT by Jim Robinson. [history]
A Japanese corporation wants to thrust the Interior community of Galena into international limelight by donating a new, unconventional electricity-generating plant that would light and heat the Yukon River village pollution-free for 30 years.
There's a catch, of course. It's a nuclear reactor.
(Excerpt) Read more at adn.com ...
After the death of my grandfather, a book in his library caught my eye. It was called Before It's Too Late A Scientist's Case For Nuclear Energy by Dr. Bernard L. Cohen 1983. My grandpa worked in defense plants during world war two as an electrical engineer, due to poor eyesight and an arthritic hip. He was a quiet man who always encouraged me to read and learn about science. I took this book home because the title caught my eye, thinking what could be so good about nuclear energy.
The contents of this book were nothing short of astounding. Instead of radiation being the boogeyman that is unsafe in any dosage, the truth is we live in a very radioactive environment. The atmosphere does sheild us from the worst, but we are constantly being irradiated, penetrated by particles, and absorbing them. The objection to nuclear power is primarily one of public fear, fear orchestrated by the so-called 'environmental movement' and corroborated by the alamist media. Nuclear power is no more dangerous than any other form of energy production in terms of risk and pollution, but it has the advantage of supplying our needs for millenia, instead of carbon fuels.
Let me close with the words of Tom Paine:
"A thousand years hence (for I must indulge a few thoughts), perhaps in less, America may be what Europe now is. The innocence of her character, that won the hearts of all nations in her favor, may sound like a romance and her inimitable virtue as if it had never been. The ruin of that liberty which thousands bled for or struggled to obtain may just furnish materials for a village tale or extort a sigh from rustic sensibility, whilst the fashionable of that day, enveloped in dissipation, shall deride the principle and deny the fact.
"When we contemplate the fall of empires and the extinction of the nations of the Ancient World, we see but little to excite our regret than the mouldering ruins of pompous palaces, magnificent museums, lofty pyramids and walls and towers of the most costly workmanship; but when the empire of America shall fall, the subject for contemplative sorrow will be infinitely greater than crumbling brass and marble can inspire. It will not then be said, here stood a temple of vast antiquity; here rose a babel of invisible height; or there a palace of sumptuous extravagance; but here, Ah, painful thought! the noblest work of human wisdom, the grandest scene of human glory, the fair cause of Freedom rose and fell."
Good news: implementation of nuclear power is at least being considered.
Bad news: it was developed in Japan, not the U.S.
Yeah, all those huge American reactor accidents despoiling the landscape. Killing the wild life and mutating our children.
Oh, right. Ted Kennedy has killed more Americans with his car than the civilian nuclear power industry in the U.S.
"And what if something goes wrong?" Buske asked. Nuclear power plants don't usually have small accidents. "If it goes bad, it tends to go really, really bad," he said. "One hopes nothing will go wrong, but one wants to ... make sure it's all insured."
Is the author quoting Buske or is the author expressing an opinion or fact? I would seem to me that "Nuclear power plants don't usually have small accidents." is not part of the interview with Buske, at least since it isn't in quotes.
The truth is that most accidents or equipment failure at nuclear power plants are minor, just as they are with other power plants. Yet another opinion slipped in as fact.
Small correction Nuclear power is
no more far less dangerous than any other form of energy production in terms of risk and pollution,
BTW, We are not losing our technological edge in this technology, we are years behind the last time I read anything on this. Europe is working on generation 4 reactors and we are basically twiddling our thumbs.
I fear we will never garner the political will to rectify this until gas is $4 per gallon. Like Europe.
If a number of these improved plants were installed in California instead of those based on natural gas, it could amount to a massive tax cut and would be a rocket boost to the economic potential of the state. Natural gas prices would drop and that would help the other regions of the US too.
Looking at its compact size, I keep thinking of the ones used in aircraft carriers which are virtual cities of 5,000 moving all over the world. To help sell it here, I think that US Energy dept should use regular sailors from the carriers to vouch for its safety and note that in its 50 year operating span, the carrier will only have to be refueled one time.
If they standardize and mass produce these mini reactors, I wonder if they can get energy costs down even further so that it would dramatically change the economic landscape for the US and the world.
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I worked in Galena in about 1980 or '81. Is there still a Hobo's Bar? I remember eating white fish cavier and drinking ice cold vodka with the fellow who ran the bar. He had a funny story he told about trying to raise chickens. It seems they all died of exhaustion during the summer when it was light around the clock and they never shut down to rest.
Would probably be a good idea. I understand the planned location of the nuclear reactor is immediately underneath your barbecue pit...
After we executed all of the lawyers.
Toshiba, calls the reactor a "nuclear battery,"
But while several said the technology sounds promising, they note that the nuclear power industry has a history of making bold claims it couldn't back up.
"Back in the 1950s, they said (nuclear power) would be too cheap to meter," said Norm Buske, director of the Seattle-based organization The RadioActive Campaign.
No one in the Nuclear industry said that in the 50s or at any other time. That quote came out of The New York Times (big surprise) supposidly quoting some Army General who if he believed that didn't know his a** from a hole in the ground. Anyone with any knowledge would never say that. The challenge in the 50s was to figure out how to make nuclear even remotely competitive with conventional generation. First of all, more than half of the investment in a nuclear plant is the same investment in virtually identical equipment as a conventional plant. (Same is true with this plant.) And the realization came about relatively early that the only way to make it competitive was to "Size Up" the plants beyond the MW ratings of the typical fossil-fired boiler of that day in order to generate enough MW to cover the capital costs of the nuclear portion. i.e. Only big would work and no one knew exactly how big you could make a steam turbine then. They succeded, however, and made nuclear even more efficient than fossil, but back in the 50s, no one involved took that hope for granted and absolutly no one involved thought it would ever be free.
As to this reactor, I'll take a look. At the costs shown here, remote generation in places where fuel costs are super high is the only possibility it has for application. I doubt that the "reactor" itself will ever be licensed in the US or any other country without full time, around the clock reactor operators, as the article suggests. Those guys don't come cheep either.
Correct. ESKOM in South Africa is working on the Gen. IV PBMR. Japan has a couple of ABWRs on line now (Gen. III) and also built Monju, which had a minor problem with a sodium leak (a couple of liters but that was enough for the wackos to get it shutdown). France is moving ahead with Gen. IV designs.
What's happening over here? Much of the work in the nuclear business lately is directed toward waste disposal and decommissioning. We're in the process of burying our industry while others are building their's up.
Sounds like a familiar story.
Given that its small footprint makes it appropriate for urban installations, is that still true by the time you take line losses into account? The real estate for gas pipelines, and transmisson lines doesn't come cheap either.
The small town of Galena, Alaska, is tired to pay 28 cents/kwh for its electricity, three times the national average. Today, Galena "is powered by generators burning diesel that is barged in during the Yukon River's ice-free months," according to Reuters. But Toshiba, which designs a small nuclear reactor named 4S (for "Super Safe, Small, & Simple"), is offering a free reactor to the 700-person village, reports the New York Times (no reg. needed). Galena will only pay for operating costs, driving down the price of electricity to less than 10 cents/kwh. The 4S is a sodium-cooled fast spectrum reactor -- a low-pressure, self-cooling reactor. It will generate power for 30 years before refueling and should be installed before 2010 providing an approval by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Read more...
|First, where is Galena? Galena is a 700-person Athabascan Indian village on the Yukon River, located 275 miles west of Fairbanks and 550 miles northwest of Anchorage. (Credit: Shaw Pittman LLC).|
Here is the status of the deal as told by Reuters.
Galena officials met with the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., on Wednesday. If the commission approves the plan, the reactor would be the first new one permitted in the United States since the early 1980s, according to an Alaska Public Radio Network report on Thursday.
Energy to power electricity is important to Galena. Winter temperatures can dip below minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 51 Celsius). Daylight is scarce because of the short days during the winter.
Galena is powered by generators burning diesel that is barged in during the Yukon River's ice-free months. That is costly and carries its own environmental risks because diesel can spill.
Toshiba, which designs a new 10-megawatt nuclear reactor, offered to install one of these in the hope that other isolated towns will follow, explains the New York Times.
Toshiba offered Galena a free reactor if the town would pay the operating costs, estimated at 10 cents a kilowatt-hour, about the national average for power. In December, the City Council voted unanimously to take it.
Galena looked at other sources of energy, such as coal, which pollutes, and solar power, but the sun is not very present at this kind of latitude. So it decided to take the nuclear path.
Here are some details about the 4S reactor.
Toshiba calls its design the 4S reactor, for "super-safe, small and simple." It would be installed underground, and in case of cooling system failure, heat would be dissipated through the earth. There are no complicated control rods to move through the core to control the flow of neutrons that sustain the chain reaction; instead, the reactor uses reflector panels around the edge of the core. If the panels are removed, the density of neutrons becomes too low to sustain the chain reaction.
|Here is a diagram showing a cross section of the 4S nuclear reactor (Credit: S. Maruyama, et al., Mechanical Engineering Congress, 2003 Japan(MECJ-03), August 5-8, Tokushiba, Japan, 2003, via Shaw Pittman LLC).|
Is this really a Super-Safe nuclear reactor?
The design is described as inherently safe, but it does have one riskier feature: It uses liquid sodium, not water, to draw heat away from the core, so the heat can be used to make steam and then electricity.
Designers chose sodium so they could run the reactor about 200 degrees hotter than most power reactors, but still keep the coolant depressurized. (Water at that temperature would make steam at thousands of pounds of pressure a square inch.) The problem is that if sodium leaks, it burns.
Anyway, if the Nuclear Regulatory Commission approves it -- which could cost millions of dollars to Toshiba -- the 4S reactor could be installed by 2010. It will use uranium enriched to 20 percent and generate power for 30 years before needing to be disposed of and replaced.
If you're really interested by this 4S reactor to be installed in Galena, you should read "Public Information and Outreach in Galena, Alaska," a document prepared by the Washington, D.C., firm Shaw Pittman LLC (PDF format, 20 pages, 360 KB). The above images come from this document.
Sources: Reuters, February 3, 2005; Matthew L. Wald, The New York Times, via the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, February 3, 2005; Shaw Pittman LLC, March 23, 2004
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